The elevator made a ‘ting’ sound as it stopped on the fourth floor. The stairway was badly lit. The only tube light present in the hallway flickered for life but eventually got lost in the shadows of darkness after a mere struggle of 5 seconds. I reached my flat and rang the bell. College was fun today, I had bunked two classes and went to Café Oxy. It had the best flavored hookah in town. My friends had then dropped me to my place. An empty stomach filled with some ‘paan’ flavored smoke, the cold breeze after the rain and my water soaked clothes, all of that combined was making it difficult to stand without shivering. Weather in Kolkata had suddenly changed over ten days. The frequent rain in the evening had generated many statuses on Facebook saying ‘I love this weather’, ‘I want to go out’ and stuff like that, and was also the sole reason for Kolkata Knight Rider’s loss in the last match. It’s so easy to blame someone else for what is entirely your own fault. Isn’t? Even my personal life was not going that well. Poor marks in exam, a fight with a good friend, no increment in pocket money, all the more reasons to hate life, I thought. I don’t know, we are always told that this phase, this post-teenage phase is the building ground for our future. It’s when we seriously have to decide what we are going to do with our lives. It’s now or never. The pressure of being successful or being better than someone else, after sometime, gets to you. My life was going nowhere. And it had changed me over the days. I started hating people randomly. I started fighting with them. I thought they were the reason for my bad marks. Or the fights I had with them. I even stopped talking to the people who loved me the most, my parents.
I was adjusting my shirt, folding it upwards to find some relief from the cold, when the gate was finally opened and a figure appeared on the door. Maa looked weak, she must have overslept in the evening, I thought. She smiled when she recognized the familiar face in the dark and let me in. She took the bag pack I was carrying all day and bought me a towel. I felt at ease. I felt at home. I went into my room to change the wet clothes into clean ones. She went back to lying on the sofa and watching TV. I shouted from the room and asked her to give me something to eat. I heard some noise. It was some kitchen utensil, I guessed.
After changing the clothes I saw the laptop carefully misplaced on my bed. No one cleans my room! I had left it there in the morning before leaving. The sudden urge to check my virtual world where I was a hero, forced me to turn it on. I shouted one more time for the food but this time there was no response. There was no notification on Facebook today. No one had liked the photo I had uploaded and it pissed me off. I turned off the laptop and got out of the room. Maa was oozing on the sofa, the remote had fallen off. It was the remote that made the noise. I screamed this time.
‘Maa I come home after 8 hours of struggling through buses and attending classes and you can’t even give me food. You stay at home and sleep in the evening, and you, you do nothing else.’ I couldn’t believe what I was saying but I didn’t stop. I said some more mean words that had absolutely nothing to do with the current situation. She looked at me and told me, ‘Vineet I have a bad fever, I think I am sick!’ The voice could have woken a dead from the grave for his compassion. It was so saddening. It was so weak. She hadn’t spoken anything since I came, she had just smiled. She looked weak. ‘Maa! Everyone is sick; maybe you’re sick because you sleep all day!’ saying this, I went to the kitchen to get food myself.
There was a plate placed upside down on another plate. I lifted that plate. I cried when I saw Rajma-Chawal, my favorites, in it. She didn’t bring it because she thought I would take some time checking my important study related mails and wouldn’t eat the food right away. She wanted the food to be fresh.
I realized what a shallow person I was, and how terribly empty I was without them, my Maa and Papa. I realized that they had wasted their entire life for this; for me to come home from college and scream at them. I realized how much they had sacrificed, how many dreams, how many ambitions. I remembered how once they wanted to go to Kanyakumari but couldn’t go because I wanted to go to Shimla. They didn’t say anything. The plan for Shimla was scraped as well. I remembered how once they were watching their favorite comedy serial on TV and I changed the channel to watch football. Papa had asked me what offside is, just to get involved, just to be my buddy. I had said; leave it na you won’t understand. I realized they just wanted to be a part of my life. A life they created, both biologically and metaphorically.
I realized I had seen Gods, if not, then someone better than them, someone even they would envy.
The tube light I saw on the stairway. I saw it struggle for 5 seconds. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t struggling before I came, maybe it was struggling since two days, maybe more and in the end when it saw no help, it let go. It let go itself. Into the dark. Where no more, you could see the flicker of smile. Only terrifying truth laid. Only darkness resided, omnipresent.